Is ID Just a Matter of Time?
Over at the pro-ID blog Telic Thoughts, Krauze has this amusing post suggesting that ID today is in the same place evolution was about a century ago. Evolution had some interesting ideas, but was hardly a well-developed science. The inspiration for the post was an excerpt from Michael Ruse's recent book The Evolution/Creation Struggle, in which Ruse recounted the fits and starts of evolution's early days. Krauze writes:
It wasn’t until the 1930’s, more than 60 years after Darwin had published Origin of the Species, that an actual theory of evolution was proposed, dubbed “the synthetic theory”. The mathematicians Ronald A. Fisher and Sewall Wright did the work necessary to make the effects of natural selection quantifiable, the journal Evolution was founded, and empiricists like Bernard Kettlewell and Ernst Mayr could carry out their field work, studying evolution in the wild.
In Ruse’s terminology, evolution only gradually arose from pseudoscience, through popular science, before finally becoming a professional science in the 1930’s. You could say that evolution evolved. Similarly, intelligent design has passed from being expressed in creationist pamphlets as a flimsy support for apologetics, to being expressed in popular science books. ID critcs often inquire as to why intelligent design still isn’t doing any research, “10 years after Behe published Darwin’s Black Box”. However, they should remember the lesson taught to us by Darwin’s followers: Big ideas take time.
Alas, there are several problems with this analysis.
- First, while it is true that a well-developed theory for how evolution occurs had to wait for the synthesis of the thirties and forties, the fact remains that Darwin convinced just about everyone that common descent was a reality. The evidence for that proposition only got stronger with discoveries made in the years following publication of The Origin. The overwhelming evidence for common descent gave scientists good reason to believe that their search for a mechanism of evolution would not be in vain. ID can claim nothing similar. Their entire theory, such as it is, rests entirely upon two pillars: irreducible complexity and complex specified information. Both of these ideas are utterly and irretrievably wrong-headed. Nothing the ID folks build upon such a foundation will ever produce anything but poisonous fruit.
- It is manifestly untrue, however, that there were no proposed theories of evolution prior to the synthesis. Quite the contrary. There were rather a lot of viable theories, such as Lamarckism and mutationism. These theories were viable in those days because so little was known about the nature of inheritance. Significant progress in evolution could not occur until genetics was placed on a more solid foundation.
- The idea that ID has evolved over the years is nonsense. ID is today what it has always been: A political and legal strategy for uniting various schools of creationism under one banner acceptable to all. Young-Earth creationism was solidly defeated as a legal strategy in the eighties, and ID sprang up, in an act of spontaneous generation, in its wake. ID is making almost precisely the same arguments today as it was making a decade ago. And the few novel items (like Dembski's abuse of the No Free Lunch Theorems), hardly constitute progress).
- But for all of that, I'd be willing to give ID all the time it wants, if only its propoents were willing to meet me half way. Krauze believes that ID is an infant science that simply requires time to blossom fully? Fine. Let him tell the main proponents of ID to stop writing books with titles like “The Design Revolution.” Tell them they should stop comparing their accomplishments to the work of Galileo, Newton and Einstein. Tell them to stop preaching that evolution is a dying theory, soon to be replaced by their own brand of theistic science. And most of all, tell them to stop pressuring school boards to include their drivel in high school science classrooms.
ID is reviled among knowledgable people because the embarrassing emptiness of its arguments is matched only by the boundless arrogance of its leading proponents. If more time were all they wanted, everyone would be happy to give it to them. But no one who has been following the last ten years of ID activity could possibly believe that scientific progress rates highly on its list of priorities.